PC Peter Forbes - West Lothian Constabulary


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Linlithgowshire Constabulary

West Lothian Constabulary 1850 - 1950 PC Peter Forbes

This article is not concerned with medals. I bought a Linlithgowshire Constabulary Summons dated from 1902 at a Collectors Fair and decided to research all those mentioned therein.


The result of the enquiry is shown below!

Linlithgowshire Constabulary

West Lothian Constabulary     

1840 -1950 


PC Peter Forbes


Born – Reay, Caithness, 1852


Died - 22 June 1935 Edinburgh




How I acquired the Summons


In June 2012, I attended a collector’s meeting in Glasgow and completed a deal on some documents from Edinburgh City Police. My real pleasure, however, was in obtaining a Police Report from Linlithgowshire Constabulary dated 15th August 1902. The report concerned a case of alleged Day Poaching by a coal miner, Thomas Langan.


I was even more pleased when I noticed that a ‘PC Forbes’ had submitted the Summons since I have been trying in vain for years to identify a PC F Forbes whose King Edward VII Police (Scotland)  Medal, 1903 commonly known as The Visit to Scotland  Medal,  I own. My pleasure was short-lived when on closer inspection I noted the officer’s name was ‘Peter Forbes’.


However, the Summons still offered the opportunity for a research project in to West Lothian Constabulary.


Linlithgowshire Constabulary

1840 – 1950


Linlithgowshire or West Lothian as it is now known was then an important coal and shale mining area and its small police force dispersed throughout the county in small police stations. The force used both names throughout its existence but was West Lothian Constabulary by the time of amalgamation with East Lothian Constabulary, Mid Lothian Constabulary and Peebles-shire Constabulary on 16th May 1950 to form Lothians and Peebles Constabulary.


From 22nd June 1878 until 6th October 1914, the force shared the same Chief Constable as Mid Lothian Constabulary although the forces remained separate. From that date in 1914 until amalgamation in 1950, the force shared the same Chief Constable, Colonel Alexander Borthwick, as East Lothian, Mid Lothian and Peebles Constabularies although still operating as separate forces. [i]


Force Strength in 1901




Chief Constable, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Borthwick


Deputy Chief Constable, Superintendent Robinson




Detective Sergeant




Police Constables



The conditions for constables were then quite harsh and they frequently transferred around the county with consequent upheaval for their wives and children. PC Forbes served at Broxburn, Whitburn, Linlithgow, Kirkliston and Blackridge and his three children were born respectively in Whitburn, Linlithgow and Kirkliston.


Peter Forbes at least would benefit from the Police (Scotland) Act, 1890 Section 3 which gave him and his family some protection in terms of death benefit if he died in the execution of his duty or a pension dependent on him completing somewhere between twenty and twenty eight years’ service. [ii]


Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Borthwick was a forward thinking Chief Constable and in January 1894 published a “Police Manual – Memorandum and General Conditions of Service of the Officers of the Mid, West and East Lothian and Peebles Constabulary”. [iii]


I have a copy of the Police Manual signed and dedicated by Lieut. Col. Borthwick to the Member of Parliament for Mid Lothian, Sir Graham Graham-Montgomery Baronet of Stanhope dated 24th February 1894.


Those readers familiar with The Scottish Criminal Law Book (Police Duties & Procedure) would recognise its lineage in the 1894 version.


Researching the Names on the Summons


Since the Summons was dated 1902, I reasoned that all of those named therein might be recorded in the Census of the previous year and decided to research all the names shown. When researching police recipients of medals I usually try to find as much detail as I can. I use the records at the General Record Office Scotland (GROS) in Edinburgh, the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, the Edinburgh City Archives and whatever other sources I can find.


PC Forbes was no different and I gathered a significant amount of information on him from the GROS records. His chronological story is below.


I have taken the 1901 Census information for the others involved and listed it briefly. The witness Frank Armour has a story I had not anticipated.


The table below shows those recorded on the report chronologically and their part in the story. With the exception of Lieutenant Colonel Craigie, I found records of each of the others in the Census of the previous year all living within a few miles of the locus (scene) of the alleged offence. 




Thomas Langan


Henry Johnstone

Tenant Farmer – West Craigs Farm

Col. Robert Menzies

Shooting Tenant - Witness

Lieut. Col. John Walker Cornelius Craigie

Landowner of West Craigs & Bedlormie Estates

James Hutt

Gamekeeper - Witness

Frank Armour

Blacksmith - Witness

John Crosbey (Crosbie)

Apprentice Blacksmith – Witness

PC Peter Forbes

Constable, Linlithgowshire Constabulary


Characters mentioned in the Summons


The Summons concerned an offence of Day Poaching and the accused was a 40 year old Miner called Thomas Langan of 38 Westrigg Rows, near Blackridge in the Parish of Torphichen, Linlithgowshire.


Day Poaching is:


          Poaching – Day- Any person who enters, or is on any land during the day time (one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset) in search or pursuit of game, or of deer, roe, woodcocks, snipe, quails, landrails, wild ducks or conies, commits an offence

It is an aggravation of the offence –


For five or persons being on the land together.

For any person to blacken or disfigure his face.

For any person trespassing to assault a game-keeper.


            Any person found trespassing may be required to quit the land, and to give his full name and address; and if he refuses to do either or both, he may be apprehended.

(2 and 3 Will. IV, Cap.68) [iv]


Henry Johnstone was the tenant farmer of West Craigs Farm in the Parish of Torphichen in the County of Linlithgow.


The alleged offence was committed on land defined as


 “…the moss parts of West Craigs Farm owned by Lieutenant Colonel John Walker Cornelius Craigie of Cramond House, Midlothian”. [v]


Lieut. Col, Craigie also owned Bedlormie Estate in the Parish of Torphichen and sub-let the shooting rights on both parts of his estate to Colonel Robert Menzies of Viewfield House, Harthill in the County of Lanark.


Colonel Menzies employed James Hutt, 30, of Viewfield Coach House, Harthill as Gamekeeper. He also employed Frank Armour, 22, Blacksmith and John Crosbey (Crosbie), 17, an Apprentice Blacksmith, both of Harthill, as Beaters for the duration of shoots.


Peter Forbes was a Police Constable living with his wife and family at the Police Station in Blackridge in the Parish of Torphichen in the County of Linlithgow, now known as West Lothian.


Details of the Alleged Offence


About 1.30 pm on Thursday 14th August 1902, the witnesses Hutt, Armour and Crosbie were driving grouse towards the guns of the shooting party led by Colonel Menzies on Bedlormie Moss, near Blackridge in the Parish of Torphichen in the County of Linlithgow.


At that time, they heard two shots fired behind them towards the East. They immediately thought that poachers were responsible and moved towards the direction of the shots. As they did so, they saw a man “coursing the moss”. Langan had in his possession a double-barrelled gun and a dog. When they were almost up to him, Hutt called out to him to stop and he did so.


Hutt demanded the man give his name and address and the man stated he was “Thomas Langan, Miner, residing at No 38 Westrigg Rows, Near Blackridge”. Hutt asked Langan if he had permission from any person to come on the land and to shoot there. Langan stated that he had not as he believed the land belonged to no one.


Hutt took Langan to Colonel Menzies and told him what he had found. Langan was required to leave the estate immediately and Colonel Menzies ordered Hutt to report the matter to the police.

About 6.00 pm that night, Hutt accompanied by Armour and Crosby reported the matter to PC Peter Forbes at Blackridge Police Station.


PC Forbes noted Hutt’s evidence in the Information and Armour and Crosby corroborated this.

On the afternoon of Friday 15th August 1902, the witness Hutt called at Blackridge Police Station. He then accompanied PC Forbes to the accused’s address at Westrigg Rows nearby.


Hutt immediately identified Langan as the man on Bedlormie Moss the previous day. PC Forbes charged Langan with Day Poaching the previous day and he admitted the offence. In his reply to the charge, he stated that he thought he was doing no harm as he thought, “the moss belonged to no person”.


When asked to produce his gun licence Langan produced a Gun Licence granted at Blackridge Post Office on 25th October 1901 and which was expired. He was also unable to produce a valid Dog Licence.


PC Forbes summoned Langan to appear at the Police Court at Linlithgow on Tuesday 26thAugust 1902. According to a note on the Summons, Langan failed to appear.


Unfortunately, that is the end of this part of the story until I find more Linlithgowshire Constabulary archives. The County Archive at Linlithgow has newspapers as well as Old Parish Records going back before 1902 so if I can find the time, I might look there too.


The story of PC Peter Forbes Linlithgowshire Constabulary


Register of Births Carnock 1849


On 15th day of February 1849, Charles Nisbet and Margaret Allan had a daughter called Margaret Peddie Nisbet. She was baptised by the Reverend Peter Chalmers in Dunfermline in the County of Fife. She would later marry Peter Forbes. [vi]


Register of Births Reay 1852


Peter Forbes was born in 1852 in the Parish of Reay in the County of Caithness. As yet, I have not found his birth certificate but his place of birth as Reay, 1852, is in several sources.


His father was Peter Forbes and his mother, Jane McKay and they were married in Reay on March 27th, 1837 [vii]


Census 7th April 1861


In the Census of 1861, Peter and Jane Forbes live with their five sons and two daughters at Isauld just outside Reay on the North coast of Caithness. [viii]




Peter Forbes (56)

Agricultural Labourer

Jane Forbes (47)

Agricultural Labourer

David Forbes (21)

Agricultural Labourer

Jane Forbes (17)


William Forbes (15)


John Forbes (12)


Peter Forbes (9)


Alexander Forbes (8)


Catherine Forbes (4)



Census 2nd April 1871


By the next Census on 2nd April 1871, Peter Forbes, now 20, had left home and was working as an Agricultural Labourer a few miles away at Hallam [ix]


Between April 1871 and April 1878, Peter Forbes left Caithness and became a Police Constable in Linlithgowshire Constabulary.


Register of Marriages, Uphall in the County of Linlithgow, 1878


On 26th April 1878, Peter Forbes, (25), Police Constable married Margaret Nisbet, (26) at Broxburn in the Parish of Uphall in the County of Linlithgow after Banns according to the Forms of the Free Church.


The parent’s names shown on the marriage certificate are the same as shown above. [x]


Register of Births Whitburn 1879


Peter Forbes was born on 15th July 1879 at Whitburn in the County of Linlithgow. His father was Police Constable Peter Forbes and his mother, Margaret Forbes, Maiden Surname, Nisbet. The date of marriage of the parents is the same as shown above. His father registered the birth. [xi]


Register of Deaths Whitburn 1880

On 20th April 1880, Peter Forbes, aged nine months, died of croup in Whitburn in Linlithgowshire. His father, Police Constable Peter Forbes, registered his death. [xii]


Census 3rd April 1881


Recorded living at 106 High Street, Linlithgow

on the night of the 1881 Census is the following: [xiii]




Peter Forbes (29)

Police Constable

Margaret Forbes (32)


John Turnbull (25) Boarder

Police Constable


It was common throughout Scotland for single Police Constables to board with their married colleagues.


Register of Births Linlithgow 1881


On 27th April 1881, Margaret Allan Forbes was born in High Street, Linlithgow. Her father, Police Constable Peter Forbes, registered her birth. [xiv]


Register of Births Livingstone 1885


On 1st January 1885, Charles Nisbet Forbes was born in Blackburn in the Parish of Livingstone in the County of Linlithgow. His father, Police Constable Peter Forbes, registered his birth. [xv]


The town of Livingston no longer has the ‘e’ at the end.


Census 5th April 1891


On the night of the Census in 1891, the following were living at the Police Station, Main Street, Kirkliston in the County of Linlithgow. [xvi]




Peter Forbes, (39)

Police Constable

Margaret Forbes, (42)


Margaret Forbes, (9)


Charles Forbes, (6)



Register of Births Kirkliston 1891


On 3rd July 1891, Mary-Jane Forbes was born in Kirkliston in the County of Linlithgow. His father, Police Constable Peter Forbes, registered her birth. [xvii]


Census 31st March 1901

On the night of the Census in 1901, the following were living at the Police Station in Blackridge in the Parish of Torphichen in the County of Linlithgow. [xviii]




Peter Forbes, (49)

Police Constable

Margaret Forbes, (52)


Charles N. Forbes, (16)

Colliery Clerk (Apprentice)

Mary J. Forbes, (9)



Census 2nd April 1911


Recorded living at 6 Preston View in the Parish of Bo’ness and Carriden in the County of Linlithgowshire are the following. [xix]




Peter Forbes, (59)

Pit-head Foreman (Police Pensioner)

Margaret Forbes, (62)


Mary Jane Forbes, (19)



A significant feature of the 1911 Census and one that caused great controversy at the time was the recording of the duration of a marriage, the number of children born alive and the number of children still living. From this record it is clear that Peter and Margaret were married for 32 years at this point, she had given birth to four live children and three were still alive in 1911.


Register of Marriages Canongate 1915


On 22nd April 1915 at 13 Milton Street, Edinburgh, George Dundas Bain, (40), a Cable Tramway Pointsman married Margaret Allan Forbes, (33), a Spinster. Margaret’s parents are Peter and Margaret Forbes. [xx]


Register of Deaths Canongate 1916


On 22nd October 1916 at 3 Buchanan Street, Edinburgh, Margaret Forbes, (67), married to Peter Forbes, a Custom House Worker, died. Her widower, Peter Forbes registered the death. [xxi]


Register of Marriages Canongate 1925


On 20th November 1925, after Banns according to the Forms of the Baptist Church, Peter Forbes, (74), a retired Police Constable, married Agnes Low Stewart, (38), in 3 Buchanan Street, Edinburgh.


The witnesses were John Bain of 32 Bothwell Street, Edinburgh and Netta Taylor Fraser of 3 Buchanan Street, Edinburgh. A. Douglas Lewis, the Minister of South Leith Baptist Church performed the ceremony. [xxii]


Register of Deaths North Leith 1935


Peter Forbes, (84), a retired Police Constable, died on 22nd June 1935 in the Northern General Hospital, Edinburgh.


He had been married to (1) Margaret Nisbet and (2) Agnes Low Stewart.


His daughter, Margaret Bain of 51 Iona Street, Leith, registered the death. [xxiii]


The story of the other people involved


Census 31st March 1901


The Accused


Living at 38, Westrigg (Rows) in the Village of Westrigg in the Parish of Torphichen in the County of Linlithgow on the night of the Census 1901 were: [xxiv]




Thomas Langan, (39)

Coal Miner

Martha Langan, (36)


Ann Langan, (12)


Margaret Langan, (11)


Thomas Langan, (9)


Edward Langan, (6)



Thomas Langan was born around 1862 in New Monkland in the County of Lanark. His wife Martha was born around 1865 in the same parish. The two sons and daughters were all born in Shettleston in the County of Lanark between 1889 and 1895.


Private land owners owned the coal mines and it was not unusual for them to move miners around the country as they opened up new pits. The miners lived in ‘Tied Housing’ so had little choice but to move.


The whole of West Lothian and large parts of Lanarkshire were coal fields as were large parts of Stirlingshire, Fife, the Lothians and Ayrshire.


Wages were poor and drinking alcohol to excess was widespread. The payment of wages in public houses was prohibited under the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1872.  [xxv]


I have not found any record of Thomas Langan in the 1891 or the 1911 Census’ so can shed no further light on him or his family.


The Witnesses


On the night of the Census 1901, living at West Craigs Farm in the Parish of Torphichen in the County of Linlithgow were Henry Johnston, (37), a Farmer and Employer, his wife Annie, his two daughters, Annie and Agnes and eight other females and eleven males.[xxvi]


That same night, the Census record for Viewfield House in the Village of Harthill in the County of Lanark shows that Colonel Robert Menzies was “absent from this house”.


The same Census returns record that living at Viewfield Coach House was James Hutt, (28) a Gamekeeper and his wife Robina, (28).


James was born in Dunbog in the County of Fife and his wife in Airdrie in Lanarkshire.[xxvii]


The only ‘Frank Armour’ that I could find in Scotland that night was living at 86, Bothwell Park, Bellshill in the Parish of Bothwell in the County of Lanark. He was “Head” of the household, twenty years old and a Coal Miner. He was married to a woman called ‘Mary Armour’, (20). Both were listed as having being born in “Poland” and “Russian Subjects”.


Seven other males were also living as Boarders with ‘Frank’ and ‘Mary’ that night. They too have a range of ‘British’ sounding names but all were born in Poland and all are Russian Subjects. [xxviii]


Immigration to Scotland for work by Poles is clearly not a modern phenomenon.


John Crosbie, (16), an Apprentice Blacksmith was living at Main Street, Harthill in the Parish of Shotts in the County of Lanark with his uncle and employer, John Robertson.[xxix]


The end of the Story


A short two pages of Foolscap document relating to an alleged offence in 1902 has led to the recording of a small piece of Scottish Social History.


The ownership of land and the control of its use as well as well as the issue of low wages, living in housing tied to employment and the need to feed a family are featured.


This was probably just one small event in PC Peter Forbes long career but at least now, there is a written record of it and his family.

[i] Chief Constables (Scotland) Association Centenary Brochure 1870 -1970.


[ii] Police (Scotland) Act, 1890

(53 & 54 Vict., c.67).


[iii] Police Manual - Memorandum and General Conditions of Service of the Officers of the Mid, West and East Lothian and Peebles Constabulary Published County Buildings, Edinburgh January 1894.


[iv] 2 and 3 Will. IV., Cap.68


[v] Linlithgowshire Constabulary Police Report dated 15th August 1902 against Thomas Langan on a Charge of Day Poaching.


[vi] 15/02/1849 Nisbet, Margaret Peddie (OPR Births 424/00 0140 0311 Dunfermline).


[vii] 27/03/1837 Forbes, Peter (OPR Marriages 040/00 0020 0081 Reay).


[viii] 07/04/1861 Forbes, Peter (Census 1861 040/00 001/00 018).


[ix] 02/04/1871 Forbes, Peter (Census 1871 040/00 002/00 012).


[x] 1878 Forbes, Peter – Nisbet, Margaret (Statutory Marriages 672/00 0007).


[xi] 1879 Forbes, Peter (Statutory Births 673/01 0046).


[xii] 1880 Forbes, Peter (Statutory Deaths 673/01 0011).


[xiii] 03/04/1881 Forbes, Peter (Census 1881 668/00 005/00 016).


[xiv] 1881 Forbes, Margaret Allan (Statutory Births 668/00 0088).


[xv] 1885 Forbes, Charles Nisbet (Statutory Births 669/00 0004).


[xvi] 05/04/1891 1891 Forbes, Peter (Census 1891 667/00 001/00 017).


[xvii] 1891 Forbes, Mary Jane (Statutory Births 667/00 0084).


[xviii] 31/03/1901 Forbes, Peter (Census 1901 671/02 001/00 007).


[xix] 02/04/1911 Forbes, Peter (Census 1911 663/02 003/00 031).


[xx] 1915 Bain, George Dundas – Forbes, Margaret Allan (Statutory Marriages 685/03 0082).


[xxi] 1916 Forbes, Margaret (Statutory Deaths 685/03 0378).

[xxii] 1925 Forbes, Peter, Stewart, Agnes Low (Statutory Marriages 685/03 0336).


[xxiii] 1935 Forbes, Peter (Statutory Deaths 685/09 0233).


[xxiv] 31/03/1901 Langan, Thomas (Census 1901 671/02 002/00 030).


[xxv] Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1872

[xxvi] 31/03/1901 Johnston, Henry (Census 1901 671/02 002/00 018)


[xxvii] 31/03/1901 Hutt, James (Census 1901 655/02 002/00 024).


[xxviii] 31/03/1901 1901 Armour, Frank (Census 1901 625/03 002/00 020).


[xxix] 31/03/1901 Crosbie, John (Census 1901 655/02 002/00 021).

Linlithgowshire or West Lothian Constabulary Summons dated 15 August 1902

Linlithgowshire Constabulary Summons dated 15 August 1902

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